Wally Byam Caravan Club stopped in Vernon in the 1960s

Groovy caravan arrives

The 1960s really were a groovy time in Vernon.

And as the Vernon Winter Carnival celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, a lot of eyes are on the past and all the things that happened in that long-ago decade.

A perusal through the Vernon News reveals the 1960s really were an exciting time in Vernon.

Not only did the Winter Carnival begin, but the city also got a new library, museum, fire hall and city hall.

Butcher Boys Meats, an A&W drive-in, Scotty’s Pancake House and Tastee Freeze all opened, and the Okanagan Symphony and the Powerhouse Theatre performed their first shows.

It was also during this decade that Vernon played host to Wally Byam’s travelling gang of Airstream aficionados.

Byam built the world’s first airstream trailer in 1929. After the crash of the stock market and the loss of his magazine company, Byam decided to reinvent his lifestyle and build a travel trailer not unlike the donkey-towed wagon he had lived in as a boy.

The base of his trailer was a Model T Chassis, to which he added a sleeping space, stove and ice chest - to make his wife Marion a little more comfortable.

The couple took it on the road and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. When they returned home, Byam published the directions for making his trailer in Popular Mechanics under the name “Airstream,” for the way it glided along the road, and the rest is history.

Although he passed away in 1962, the Wally Byam Caravan Club carried on Byam’s legacy of adventure by traveling in large convoys all around the world.

The caravan even passed through Vernon on several occasions during the 1960s.

Photographs show rows and rows of silver airstreams parked in intricate shapes that must have required a significant amount of planning, in locations such as the Commonage, 23rd Street, MacDonald Park and Polson Park.

A number of Vernon Clubs stepped up to the task of entertaining these intrepid visitors during the evening, including the McIntosh Girls’ Pipe Band and the Vernon Girls’ Trumpet Band.

The Wally Byam Caravan Club is still going strong, although they have not passed through Vernon in many years. This year, they plan to travel across more than 750,000 miles of North America, from Alaska to Louisiana, New York to Mexico and along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

- with files from Gwyn Evans

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